Where You Been

Alt-rock pioneers Dinosaur Jr. return to the freak scene as seniors

But college radio DJs loved them, and the band caught the attention of revered punk label SST. "That was the one goal I think we actually had as a band, to be on that label," says Barlow. "Being on SST was like being part of a musical movement or something, because bands on that label—like the Meat Puppets, Black Flag, and the Minutemen—were a huge deal to us."

For Dinosaur Jr., getting signed to SST was the pinnacle. "After that, we had no idea what else we could do. Becoming any bigger didn't even seem possible, or even desirable," says Barlow. And although Murph and Mascis continued on with Dinosaur Jr. and snagged a major-label deal after giving Barlow the boot, they were never able to match that initial energy. They also never achieved the commercial success of bands they influenced. "After Nirvana [broke], people would say, 'You could be [like] Nirvana!' But I didn't really see it," explains Mascis. "I thought we were way bigger than we aspired to be anyway. There are so many bands, and hardly any of them ever [get to] do anything."

Today, with renewed interest in the band, the logical next step might be to write and record some new songs together—after all, Mission of Burma did it, and the Pixies are considering it. But Dinosaur Jr. scoff at the idea. "That sounds ridiculous, actually," says Barlow. "People ask that question without really having any desire to hear a new record. I can't imagine doing it." Mascis jokes, "Don't you wish Aerosmith had never made another record? It's all right that they got back together, but 15 or 20 years of shitty new records, and now everybody thinks they just suck—and at one point they were pretty good."

Left to right: J Mascis, Murph, Lou Barlow
photo: Kevin Scanlon
Left to right: J Mascis, Murph, Lou Barlow

So aside from promoting the re-release of their first three albums, why is Dinosaur Jr. back? Perhaps it has something to do with their frustration over the current state of music. "It seems like mediocrity is OK now. I just wish people would be better, or if they weren't better, that they wouldn't play," says Mascis. "It's so hip to be in a band now, it's like a fad or something, and it bums me out," explains Murph. "Because we come from a school where you try to do your best at it, and you try to put everything you have into it and make it worthwhile."

Mascis adds, "We were all socially retarded, and music was the only thing we could do; that's why we did it. It wasn't fun or anything—it's just all we had." When we all stop laughing, Barlow says, "There's a lot to be said for a band that has a lot of creative ambition, but absolutely no other ambition. With Dinosaur, we weren't really afraid of letting things totally fall apart. I don't really see that now; you don't really see things that are emotional and sort of unaffected. It would be nice to see a band that really didn't have any idea what they were doing."

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